11 September 2007

How to Treat One's Own

The Frog

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise "Ugly James,"
Or "Gap-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Bill Bandy-knees":
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

--Hilaire Belloc, Frenchman by birth

Solus Cum Solo

"Alone with the Alone.” It’s one of my favorite phrases used by John Henry Cardinal Newman, referring to his relationship with God as a face-to-face encounter that none should come between. As a young and lonely man at Oriel College, he was once greeted on a solitary stroll by Edward Copleston, who, with a gentlemanly bow, said, Numquam minus solus quam cum solus.* Solitude, many saints have learned, is where one best finds God, and solitude cannot be had without silence.

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. --The Imitation of Christ, Ch. 20

For all my talkativeness here, in person I have always loved quiet and solitude. (I’m reminded of Russell Kirk, a prolific writer, who was described in person to be as dull as a turtle.) In fact, my reticence has frequently been misconstrued as lack of friendliness, when in fact I’ve simply never mastered the art of chitchat. (A diet in my youth of Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, notorious depressives, hasn’t helped, either.) One of the reasons I am so drawn to Carmelite spirituality is the inner silence it fosters, pregnant with God’s love.

Take silence, for example, what good it does to the soul, what failures in charity it prevents, and so many other troubles of all kinds. --St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Silence is a virtue to be continually sought--and so, dear readers, the next several weeks shall provide opportunities to exercise this virtue (more by force than by fancy) as the family takes to the skies toward La France, the eldest daughter of the Church, whose saintly offspring include Joan of Arc, Vincent de Paul, Louis de Montfort, Jean Vianney, Catherine Labouré, Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, and too many others to name here. I’m not sure how long it will be before we are settled into our place and our internet is up and running, so, my dear friends, farewell for now. We'll see you again from across the pond. A tout à l’heure!

Bobby Darrin sends us off.

*Never less alone than when alone

09 September 2007

This one's for you, Sir Basil

07 September 2007

Houndstooth Tweed

Karen Dupré


In mere days, I shall be heading for the land of wine and cheese. While I am spreading warm chèvre over a toasted baguette, nibbling on a gorgeous tarte aux pommes and washing it all down with a café crème, I shall think of you, dear readers.

And then I shall stop thinking of you and continue with my hearty repast. A votre santé!

06 September 2007

An Apt Word

Rembrandt, The Apostle Peter Kneeling, 1631

From Fr. Powell's Blog:

Before you leave a comment disagreeing with me about kneeling, read this carefully: Can you kneel? Yes. Can you say, "Thank you, Father" as a response to "The Body of Christ"? Yes. Can we sing happy birthday, clap, roam around during the peace, and let lay folks preach? Yes, yes, yes, yes. . .we CAN do all of these things, but the bishops have asked us not to do these things and as a matter of obedience we should not do them. Should you be denied communion for kneeling? Absolutely not. But don't think for a second that your apparent reverence for the Lord negates your demonstrated disobedience to his apostles. Is kneeling more reverent? I don't know. Reverence is a matter of intent. If you are kneeling to show us all how holy you are, then there's no point in you kneeling. If you are truly reverent, then show it by being obedient. If I were a bishop, my own choice would be to allow and encourage kneeling for everyone! The reasons I have seen for discouraging kneeling are vacuous at best. However, there is more at stake here than the Protestant notion of "having it my way" and the liberal democratic notion that "I have a right" to kneel. What's at stake is whether or not we believe the bishops are the successors of the apostles and whether or not we believe they have the authority to regulate our public worship. To be absolutely clear: you are free to think that the bishops are mistaken in asking us not to kneel to receive communion. (This is my position.) However, this freedom to disagree intellectually/academically does not translate into a blank check for behaving liturgically in ways that contradict their teaching. You cannot, in other words, gripe and moan about Fr. Hollywood prancing around the church at the Peace, pointing out that the bishops have frowned on this practice AND AT THE SAME TIME kneel for communion and claim that it is your choice. The bishops are in charge of the liturgy, or they aren't. Picking and choosing what WE want them to be in charge of, or worse: simple deciding on our own what we think they've gotten right and wrong is Protestantism at its best. Every man is his own Pope, every woman her own Bishop.

I remember making this argument once and having a RadTrad scream modernist! and neoCatholic! at me. LOL. As the good Father notes, this attitude is protestantism at its best.

05 September 2007

Heretics All

Heretics all, whoever you may be,
In Tarbes or Nimes, or over the sea,
You never shall have good words from me.
Caritas non conturbat me.

But Catholic men that live upon wine
Are deep in the water, and frank, and fine;
Wherever I travel I find it so,
Benedicamus Domino.

On childing women that are forelorn,
And men that sweat in nothing but scorn:
That is on all that ever were born,
Miserere Domine.

To my poor self on my deathbed,
And all my dear companions dead,
Because of the love that I bore them,
Dona Eis Requiem.

--Hilaire Belloc

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Following on an earlier post, I list some other favorite pieces I used to play:

Schubert's Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3 (here played by Vladimir Horowitz)

Beethoven's Sonata in D Minor (Wilhelm Kempf here plays the third movement)

Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 (here played by Yundi Li, though Boaz would have killed me had I made such silly facial contortions)

Liszt's Waldesrauschen, Zwei Konzertetuden No. 1, a more virtuosic piece, perhaps less sonorous than Chopin or Schubert, but great fun to play (performed by Martin Stadtfeld here)

Curt Jester

04 September 2007

The Woman with the Come Hither Voice

Julie London sings "Cry Me a River." (Personally, I think Helen Merrill rivals her voice, as does, on some tunes, Doris Day, featured here singing "I Love Paris.")

Not particularly sultry, but with a unique, lovely, almost childlike voice, a favorite of mine has always been Astrud Gilberto. Here's her take on Corcovado with Stan Getz.

With all these posts on jazz, one might think I was raised on the genre, when in fact I was trained in classical piano. My lessons began at age five (which I've been told by those in the know is far too late a beginning for anyone with professional aspirations, some of which I fancied in my adolescence). After years of lessons and nervewracking performances, I came to study under concert pianist Boaz Sharon. He was a short, softspoken, intelligent man, and a consummate perfectionist. I had fast fingers, but Sharon was the first to painstakingly work on my control. I remember spending an entire semester trying to get through Chopin's Etude 25, No. 1 ('"Aeolian Harp"). If you know anything about the Harp Etude, then you know that it has about a thousand notes, all to be played in rapid succession so that the final product sounds like, well, a harp.

Arthur Rubinstein gives a command performance here.

An enlarged sample of the first bar is shown above. Together with the scales, arpeggios, octaves, chromatics, fugues, and other pieces assigned, each week I had to sit before Boaz and play the Harp Etude without missing a single one of those thousand notes. If I missed just one, I had to start all over again. Naturally, because my fingers were fast and tended to get away from me, I was forced to slow down--and there was nothing in the world more difficult for me than to play the Harp Etude slowly. Week after week after week of playing the piece, making errors, starting all over again, making more errors, starting over again, making mistakes once more, starting over again, etc. was quite an experience. Like any good teacher, he remained patient throughout. Lo and behold, on the very last day of class, I finally played the entire piece through without making a single mistake. I was rather proud of myself--but when he asked me to stay on for further studies (even guaranteeing me an A the next term), I refused. He asked me again, and I refused. Once more, and I still refused. Oh, it remains one of the most foolish and regrettable decisions I've ever made--but in my youth I lacked the discipline and drive to put in the hours of practice required each day. I had a love/hate relationship with the piano--and by the end of that semester, I was leaning more towards the latter.

Over a decade later, my fingers have sadly fallen into disuse, and I no longer have access to a piano. But it's an art I plan to resume once we buy our own instrument, and an art I plan to pass onto my daughter--even if I can never return to those younger days when I could play the Harp Etude flawlessly.